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Day 11: TV Pilot — LA’s Legendary Apple Pan

Several weeks ago, when we first started on this Great Pie Adventure and I began to schedule pie interviews, The Apple Pan was the first place I called. I had eaten there 20 years ago and as soon as I hung up from the call I rushed over there to satisfy my awakened craving for a Hickory Cheeseburger and a slice of banana cream pie. So since the shoot in a way began with this place it seems fitting that Apple Pan was our last stop — and last pie — of the TV pilot. We were allowed in at 9AM, two hours before the official opening time. We hadn’t yet made it all the way back from San Francisco the night before and had slept at a truck stop along I-5 in the RV. I got behind the wheel at 4:30AM , driving in my pajamas, to make it to West LA in time. We walked in the door at 9:15. Whew! (We would have been on time if I hadn’t had to change out of my pajamas.)

We were just in time to see the pie bakers in action. Jose prepped more dough while Rodrigo attended to the pies already in the oven. We learned that Rodrigo has been baking pies at The Apple Pan for 10 years and Jose has been there 12 years. But these guys are newcomers compared to the other staff members. One guy who works behind the counter has been here 30 years. And another employee retired after working here 53 years.The owners of The Apple Pan take pride in the fact that NOTHING has changed since the diner opened in 1943 — and they mean nothing. Not the menu, the recipes, the red vinyl stools, not the wood paneled walls, and not even the employees. In a world of hyperfast change, this is a place where people seek — and find — comfort.

We know this because when the doors finally opened to customers at 11AM — they were lining up outside and we witnessed every bar stool occupied by 11:02!! — we interviewed the diners on why they like to eat here. “Because it’s the best burger and pie in town. You can always count on it being great.” But they don’t keep coming back just for the food. They return — again and again, generation after generation — because of nostalgia. “I used to come here with my dad,” one man tells us, “and my grandparents used to bring him here before that.”
At last it was time for Janice and I to get down to business and try the pie. Sunny, the owner and granddaughter of the founders, brought us a piece of Boysenberry and a piece of Banana Cream.While we LOVED LOVED LOVED the pie (just look at the huge portion of bananas in that slice!) we equally enjoyed our time with Sunny (pictured above) and her mother Martha (with bedhead me below). They are so positive and cheerful who needs to come for the food? Their warm smiles were nourishment enough. That said, we wouldn’t have wanted to miss the pie. (Pictured is Janice, below, looking very happy, because berry pie is her favorite.)

To every ending there is a new beginning. No sooner did we polish off the cream pies Jose and Rodrigo showed up with two plates of their apple pie, piping hot from the oven. They stood there, waiting in anticipation for our assessment, until we dug into it. How could we refuse?
Crispy, flaky crust. Soft, warm filling. Cold, creamy ice cream. Hot, strong coffee. Oh. My. God. What a perfect balance of textures and flavors. No wonder The Apple Pan continues to do booming business after 63 years. While it’s rare to find a business that isn’t either wanting to expand in size or trying something new to keep up with the competition, we agree, we wouldn’t want them to change a thing!

NEXT: Wrapping up the shoot, doing voice overs and intros, revising the treatment, and getting Janice to the airport. The interviews — and pie tastings — may be done for now, but the real work is just beginning. So stay tuned to the blog. We’ll be giving you more updates as we progress, as well as a final tally of pies eaten, supplies used, and more.